State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione of Southlake told a Tea Party meeting the truth Monday night.
They jeered him.
To an audience that included loyal friends and supporters from Texas House campaigns, Capriglione said Republican House Speaker Joe Straus will be re-elected Jan. 13.
“ There is no race,” he told the Grapevine-based NE Tarrant Tea Party, including staunch supporters of Straus’ only challenger so far, state Rep. Scott Turner of Frisco.
Turner “doesn’t have a chance,” Capriglione said.
That set off a statewide firestorm among activists pushing for a “Speaker Showdown” like the tumultious protests around Straus’ 2011 re-election.
State Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, was one of the Republicans then and now opposing Straus, a chamber-of-commerce San Antonio Republican in his third term as speaker and always a convenient target for movement conservatives wanting a sharper right turn.
“We have almost a supermajority in the Texas House,” Zedler told the Tea Party crowd, naming a list of Tea Party causes from vouchers to banning Shariah law: “What makes you think anything’s going to change if Joe Straus is speaker again?”
Turner’s supporters include the Rev. Jack Graham of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, who wrote last week on Twitter: “I’m praying and endorsing him.”
But Capriglione told the Tea Party audience that Turner, a pro-football-player-turned-motivational-speaker still in his rookie House term, lacks the credentials for the job.
“Scott’s a friend, a brother,” Capriglione said. “He’s just not qualified to be speaker of the House.”
Capriglione cited Turner’s more moderate campaign for Congress in California and said Turner “just doesn’t have the depth when it comes to policy and analysis.”
Turner was not the primary author of any bill that passed last session, according to Texas Legislature Online.
Many in the NE Tarrant Tea Party audience groaned when Capriglione said Turner has no chance.
Argyle activist and consultant Alice Linahan, promoter of “Speaker Showdown” rallies, blurted, “Whoa!” and took to Facebook to circulate the video.
Her 2013 campaign video against Straus showed Capriglione as one of the new Tea Party members replacing falling dominoes that included former state Rep. Vicki Truitt, R-Keller.
“Looks like we will have to edit this,” she wrote in a message, and “move Gio … to the ‘dominoes falling’ screen.”
But a leader from a different Tea Party group defended Capriglione.
In an online newsletter, Marie Howard of his home Boiling Point Tea Party in Keller wrote that Turner “only has 18 votes [of 150].”
She wrote: “Let's not divide the party over a fight we cannot win. I am standing behind Giovanni … It is not our time.”
In 2010, when Capriglione first challenged Truitt, Southlake Republican Rich DeOtte finished third in the party primary.
Capriglione no doubt knew he’d face a firestorm, DeOtte wrote in a message.
“I guess he feels that Scott’s lack of experience and background outweighs the Speaker’s obstructionism to conservatives,” DeOtte wrote in a message, careful not to take either side.
“ … My first impression is that he thinks he’s doing the right thing.”
And willing to catch heck for it.